Dairylink County by County Roundup

18th July 2015

Dairylink advisor Conail Keown does a county by county roundup of how the summer is progressing on the Dairylink farms.


Good grass growth has been recorded on all Dairylink project farms so far this year.

Two of the project farmers in Cavan, Charles Clarke and David Brady, have described grazing conditions recently as ideal, with both farms having grown over 100kg DM/ha/day in the last week.

On the other Cavan-based Dairylink farm, Philip Donohoe has not been measuring grass as frequently, so hasnít a tight handle on the figures.

However, grass utilisation has been good on all three farms and all the farmers have cut back on the amount of concentrate they are feeding.

Grass residuals have been maintained at below 100kg DM/ha available (1,600kg total cover), which has resulted in top-quality regrowth on the Clarke and Brady farms, while Philip has been pre-mowing to ensure residuals are being met.

All three farms have been growing surplus grass and they have removed this in the form of silage. Charles and David have been using the grass wedge to help identify their surplus paddocks, while Philip hasnít been measuring as frequently.

Hopefully the confidence Charles and David have gained will help other farmers make the jump into grass measuring.


Weather conditions are similar to Cavan, with warm, dry conditions in Co Tyrone, which has allowed both project farms based there to make top-quality silage and reduce meals.

While both these farms have autumn-calving herds and cows are mostly in late lactation at this stage, grazed grass is still the main feed.

Concentrate feeding has been completely removed on Kevinís farm and the herd is producing 16 litres (1.43kg solids).

On Robinís farm, the average is 18 litres (1.34kg solids)on 1kg/day.

While grass growth was slow at the start of the season, with cold, wet weather, some excellent grass management on both farms has resulted in good grass utilisation.

Feed costs have been minimised during May, June and July. Concentrate feeding is approximately 15% lower in volume and total cost on the same period last year for both farms.

Kevin and Robin admit that such savings can only be realised if you are prepared to utilise grazed grass. To achieve this, they have focused on cow type in their breeding policy and are aiming for a cow with high milk solids and excellent fertility, which has an appetite for grass.

Grazing infrastructure is also vital and must be in place to efficiently move the herd on and off grass when the conditions dictate.

Both of these farms are targeting annual grass growth of 11t/ha of grass DM and if utilised correctly, this will deliver 3,500 litres per cow from grazed grass and forage made on the farm.

Drying off cows on these farms has commenced this month, with the target to have 90% of the herd calved by Christmas. Both farmers are attempting to come to terms with the very poor margins currently received for their milk and increased farm debt as a result of recent land purchases.


Soil fertility is holding back grass growth for Nigel Corbett in Co Down. Nigelís soil analysis highlighted a deficiency in phosphorus and potassium on his outlying farmland, which is currently used for rearing heifers.

Slurry was used in early spring to try to rectify the problem, with 3,000 gallons/acre applied, while a further slurry application took place at the end of May.

Nigel has also been applying compound fertiliser (20:6:10) based on soil analysis to help improve fertility.

Lime deficiency is now concerning Nigel, with 10ha of the grazing platform testing low at a pH of 5.7. Some lime was applied to this area earlier this year.

However, one particular field in the grazing platform that tested low in lime was not spread.

This field was earmarked for reseeding this year with the intention of applying lime once the field was ploughed, but because other additional drainage work, which would cost £6,000, is needed, tight finance means the job is on hold.

Bill Brown has just avoided drought conditions on his farm on the Newtownards peninsula as a result of the recent rain.

The free-draining soil type on his farm tends to dry up around this time of year, but the recent rain will hopefully permit grass growth to continue. However, the recent dry spell has resulted in much of the grass moving into heading stage.

Earlier articles discussed the issue of Bill losing some of his rented land as a result of changes to the Single Farm Payment and CAP reform.

Bill has managed well under the circumstances by increasing his stocking density and entering into the nitrates derogation to allow an increased organic nitrogen loading on the farm. The main pressure on the farm now is to get cows dried off and any remaining slurry spread on third-cut silage regrowth.

Nigel and Bill have yet to grasp the nettle on grassland management, but are hoping to make progress on this before the autumn setup starts for next spring.

With milk prices falling, no farmer can afford not to be managing grass to the best of their ability and measuring is the first step in this process.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Irish Farmers Journal. Please click on the below Irish Farmers Journal logo to be brought to additional dairy articles

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